Comparison

Even Ford Raptor lovers have to admit, there's areas where the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX wins

The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX is a compelling truck for off-road enthusiasts.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Part of this whole "automotive journalism" thing is I get to drive new cars. Years ago, my very first loan was a 2013 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, with the 6.2-liter naturally-aspirated V8 making 414 horsepower. I was hooked.

Raptor quickly became my favorite pickup, and the changes the company made for the big 2017 refresh only made the truck better. Yes, Ford's 3.5-liter EcoBoost doesn't sound meaty like a V8, but it is faster and lighter. Add on the LiveValve suspension technology from 2019 and you have the ingredients for my favorite pickup truck.

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor Ford Performance showcases the jumping power of the Ford Raptor at Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

But, I also understand that competition is necessary to make products better. Consumers win where there is competition, so when I caught wind of Ram Trucks building their Raptor-fighter I was all for it.

So, while I haven't had a chance to drive the new Ram TRX, I do believe it's a truck that I could easily fall in love with. It might even replace the precious Raptor as my favorite truck. But why would it? Here's some areas where the TRX, at least on paper, beats the Raptor.

Power plant

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Raptor's 3.5-liter EcoBoost makes a perfectly acceptable 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. At no point driving Raptor have I ever thought, "Hmm, this needs more oomph." Yet, here we are with 702 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque in the TRX.

The EcoBoost in the Raptor will undoubtedly weigh less than the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 in the TRX, which always helps with handling, but in sheer grunt the Ram wins the day.

Exhaust note

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

My only real complaint about Raptor is how the truck sounds. I want a trophy truck to sound like a trophy truck, and not a modified Focus RS. The sound doesn't hurt the Raptor's performance at all but listening to the Ram TRX rev is like listening to the approaching apocalypse. It's glorious.

Technology

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The Raptor is filled with modern tech, especially for off-road driving. So is the TRX, which has more USB ports (Types A and C) and a larger infotainment screen.

One interesting thing that the Ram offers that I'd love to see on the F-150 lineup is a color head-up display. Is it necessary? No, but it's one piece of tech that the Ram has that can benefit you when you're jumping dunes – knowing at what speed you hit that dune as you keep your eyes focused ahead.

Standard equipment

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Yes, the Raptor is less expensive for the base model ($53,455), which makes it a smarter buy if you just want to jump the dunes for less. But, the Ram TRX has more on its base truck than any other Hellcat-equipped FCA product, making it a bit of a bargain (if $70,000 is a bargain).

Wheels and tires

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

TRX comes with bead-lock capable wheels and 35-inch tires as standard. The bead-lock capable wheels on the Raptor are an optional upgrade. Also, the Raptor drives around on "just" 34-inch tires, while the TRX goes bigger.

Spare tire

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

From the factory, both trucks come with a spare tire mounted underneath the bed, like on a typical truck. But if you're an off-roader, you likely would like access to that tire made easier. The Mopar accessory catalog includes a spare tire carrier, which will be able to be added to the bill when your truck is ordered and installed at the factory before delivery.

For the Raptor, there are many options available for putting one or two spare tires in the bed, but none are currently available from Ford to be installed for delivery.

So, where does Raptor win?

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Raptor's EcoBoost engine has been used during the Baja 1000 and tested extensively for desert performance. While Ram says they durability tested the motor – plus it's in thousands of vehicles already – they haven't built a race truck yet.

The Raptor will also have better fuel economy, especially with the 10-speed automatic transmission compared to Ram's eight-speed in the TRX. It's not much better, mind you, but it'll be better.

This might be personal preference, but BFG's K02s that come standard on Raptor are more appealing to me as an all-terrain tire than the Goodyear on the TRX. On paper, the same applies for the Fox Racing shocks; I haven't seen how these Bilsteins perform yet.

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Raptor will likely have a bit better handling. It'll be a lighter truck with less weight in the nose, which will make it steer and handle a bit better. How much better? I'm itching to get behind the wheel and find out.

Finally, the Raptor, in its current guise, is cheaper. A fully loaded Launch Edition TRX is over $90,000. It starts a shade under $70,000 for the base truck. Yes, there's more standard features but there's a significant price jump from Raptor's approximately $54,000 base price. All in, albeit for a few accessories like a tonneau cover, the Raptor comes to around $72,000.

The ultimate winner?

Until the trucks are driven back-to-back there's no clear winner. If you like just pure horsepower, the Ram is what you want. But the Raptor is still an immensely capable pickup with a proven record of performance.

With that being said, the Ram TRX appears to be an EXTREMELY compelling offering and will likely sell like bananas. At least until Ford releases an updated Raptor here in the near future.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

Kia is offering the Sorento SUV in a hybrid form for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

New car prices keep going up so it was only a matter of time before the average new car price hit the $40,000 threshold. New quarterly analysis by Edmunds showed that the average amount borrowed for a new car in the fourth quarter of 2020 was $35,373. Buyers put an average of $4,734 down on top of that, which makes the average new car price $40,107.

Paying around $40,000 is a sweet spot in the market. It gets buyers into lower cost luxury and premium models as well as most of the mass market offerings. AutomotiveMap has put together a list of the best vehicles you can get for around the $40,000 mark.

2021 Acura TLX

2021 Acura TLX Advance

Photo courtesy of Acura

Price: $37,500
The Acura TLX debuted as a completely redesigned car for the 2021 model year bringing with it a new sportiness and fresh styling outside and in. The TLX is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. Its cabin is quite nice - decked out in leatherette upholstery with 12-way power-adjustable and heated front seats. Dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth, a 10-speaker audio system, satellite radio, two USB ports, a 10.2-inch infotainment touch screen, seven-inch driver information display, Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto make up just some of the items on the standard features list.

Editor's Note: Acura doesn't sell the TLX in a variety of trim levels. Instead, buyers choose the TLX then can add on packages to get what they want. The model described here has no package add-ons. Pictured: 2021 Acura TLX Advance

2021 Ram 1500 Big Horn

2021 Ram 1500 Big Horn

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Price: $39,490
Configure the 2021 Ram 1500 Big Horn with two-wheel drive, a crew cab, and 5'7" box to get one of the best trucks at the price point. It comes standard with Ram's tried and true 3.6-liter V6 engine, which provides a good amount of power. Cloth seating for six passengers and a five-inch infotainment screen is standard as well.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Price: $32,660
The Ford Bronco Sport Badlands trim is the most off-road capable version of the SUV, and it's no slouch. The model is powered by a 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, off-road suspension, advanced four-wheel drive with a twin-clutch rear-drive unit, a Terrain Management System with G.O.A.T. modes, metal bash plates, Trail Control, a 180-degree front camera with washer, front tow hooks, and rubberized flooring. The SUV rides on 17-inch Carbonized Gray-painted aluminum wheels wrapped in 28.5-inch all-terrain tires.

2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid EX

2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid EX

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Price: $36,590
The new-for-2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid comes in just two trim levels: S and EX. The upgraded EX model gets an EPA-estimated 37 mpg and has 227 total system horsepower. The features list for the Sorento Hybrid EX is long and includes a power liftgate, fog lights, a panoramic sunroof, and wireless phone charger. It also comes with a host of safety and driver assist technologies like adaptive cruise control and forward collision avoidance assist.

2021 Genesis G70 2.0T

2021 Genesis G70 Photo courtesy of Genesis Motors

Price: $36,000
The Genesis G70 is a sports sedan you probably haven't seen that much on roads near you, but you should. They should be everywhere. For under $40,000, buyers can get their hands on a rear-wheel drive G70 2.0T with a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that produces 252 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It has the buyer's choice of gray or black leatherette upholstery.

2021 Honda Ridgeline RTL

2021 Honda Ridgeline Sport

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

Price: $39,470
The Ridgeline might not be a typical truck in the looks category, but for the 2021 model year the Honda has gotten some aesthetic beef thanks to a design refresh. The truck continues to have a trunk in its bed and now comes standard with the Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver assist technologies. Power comes from the truck's 280-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 that is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission.The Ridgeline is most noted for its refined and comfortable interior that's more SUV-like than truck-like. For 2021, that has only improved. The RTL grade (Ridgeline Sport is shown above) is a step up from the base model.

2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Touring

2021 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Price: $39,995
The Chrysler Pacifica is presently the best minivan you can buy. Its Hybrid version (shown above in the Pinnacle grade) adds plug-in electric capability to the equation offering over 30 miles of gasoline-free driving per charge and running like a typical hybrid when the battery has been depleted or the van needs some extra oomph. With the Pacifica Hybrid Touring buyers get their choice of a number of included paint colors, 17-inch machined aluminum wheels with gray pockets wrapped in all-season tires, premium cloth bucket seats in black or cognac, and a 10.1-inch infotainment touch screen.

2021 Acura RDX

2019 Acura RDX Advance

Photo courtesy of Acura

Price: $38,400
Acura sells gobs of RDXs and it's really no mystery as to why. The SUV is fun to drive, has abundant cargo space, and is easy on the eyes. Add in the comfortable seats that offer plenty of space, and the RDX turns into one of the best family haulers out there, empty nest or not. The 2021 RDX rides on standard 19-inch glitter silver wheels, gets its power from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 272 horsepower, and has a host of infotainment features like a nine-speaker audio system, two USB ports, HD Radio, a 10.2-inch infotainment system touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, and satellite radio. Buyers ca opt for all-wheel drive, which puts the vehicle just a tick over the $40,000 mark.

Editor's Note: Acura doesn't sell the RDX in a variety of trim levels. Instead, buyers choose the RDX then can add on packages to get what they want. The model described here has no package add-ons. Shown: 2019 Acura RDX Advance

2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Price: $35,300
Not only does the fanciest and most tech-forward Hyundai Sonata Hybrid you can buy get 47 mpg, it also has a solar roof. It also doesn't lack oomph, with 192 horsepower from its propulsion system at the ready. The car has a 12.3-inch fully-digital gauge cluster and a 10.25-inch infotainment touch screen. It also sports plenty of head- and legroom, cargo space, and forward visibility. Pricing for the sedan includes checking nearly every option box, which is standard for the Limited model.

2021 Kia Telluride EX

2020 Kia Telluride

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Price: $37,590
Kia is selling the Telluride like gangbusters and it's not hard to see why. The three-row SUV comes standard with a 3.8-liter V6 that supplies plenty of power. Its roster of standard features on the EX trim level includes a power liftgate, 18-inch alloy wheels, Driver Talk, Quiet Mode, a 10.25-inch infotainment touch screen, wireless smartphone charging, six USB ports, leather-trimmed seats, and more. Add all-wheel drive for just $2,000 more.

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The 2021 Lexus LC 500 Inspiration Series turns the car into a stealthy black coupe.

Photo courtesy of Lexus

The new, 2021 Lexus LC 500 Inspiration Series gets blacked out features, carbon fiber accents, and performance enhancements. The luxury arm of Toyota will make just 100 of the models, which is expected to be priced at $119,800 before taxes and fees.

The new car is the result of a partnership between air race pilot Yoshihide Muroya and Lexus engineers, some of whom have worked on the LC and LFCA. The engineers worked on Muroya's plane using what they'd learned in LC 500 development to achieve aerodynamic efficiencies. These changes helped set Muroya off on his path that would eventually lead to him winning the 2017 Red Bull Air Race World Championships.

2021 Lexus LC 500 Inspiration Series

Photo courtesy of Lexus

The 2021 Inspiration Series car has a combination of features not found on any other LC package. The limited-edition vehicle is offered in one exterior color, Obsidian, and wears 21-inch black forged-alloy wheels. Pulling in inspiration from the the aircraft, the team designed a carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) spoiler that follows along the trailing edge arc of the trunk of the LC and features two downtrend winglets on either end.

Each model continues to get its power from a naturally aspirated, 471-horsepower 5.0 V8 engine that makes 398 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission that drivers can shift using magnesium paddles on the car's wheel. All that power moves the car from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds.

Lexus has equipped the model with a standard Torsen limited slip differential and Yamaha rear performance rod with damper, an available option on other LC models.

The car's cabin is blacked out as well with black Alcantara-trimmed sport seats complete with Saddle Tan accents and seat belts. The steering wheel and shift lever are also accented in black Alcantara trim. A carbon-fiber scuff plate features at the the door while a serialized badge on the center console identifies the uniqueness of the model.

A 13-speaker Mark Levinson Reference Surround Sound Audio system is standard, as is a head-up display, and SmartAccess Card Key (similar to what Tesla offers).

The 2021 Lexus LC 500 Inspiration Series is on sale now.

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